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SPD Secretary General Nahles demands minimum wage agreement from Merkel

A leading opposition Social Democrat says coalition talks with Chancellor Merkel's conservatives can begin only if they agree to introduce a minimum wage. The remarks came before the parties' second exploratory meeting.

A day ahead of a second round of preliminary exploratory talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc, the secretary general of the opposition party has stated a precondition for future coalition negotiations: agreement on the introduction of a nationwide minimum wage.

Though some sectors in Germany have seen the introduction of the minimum wage thanks to labor unions, the federal government has not passed a law for the entire country. Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU) have expressed a preference for continuing to tailor pay to individual sectors.

The Social Democrats wouldn't consider forming a government with the CDU/CSU "without an agreement on a nationwide compulsory minimum wage of 8.50 euros ($11.51)," SPD Secretary-General Andrea Nahles told the newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

Members of the SPD and the CDU/CSU called a second round of talks after determining in early October that some differences needed to be discussed before they could reach a decision on entering into coalition negotiations.

Merkel's CDU/CSU bloc won a resounding victory in the September 22 federal elections, falling just five seats short of an absolute majority. Its junior coalition partner, the liberal Free Democrats (FDP), did not make the five-percent threshold needed to secure seats in parliament, forcing the chancellor to find a new coalition partner.

SPD wants 'concrete' commitment

Nahles emphasized that Monday's talks would have to go beyond the niceties of the first talks and produce concrete agreements from the chancellor and her conservatives.

"The Union shouldn't [assume] that there will automatically be a third round of talks. We need concrete conclusions on Monday whether entering coalition negotiations would make sense," said Nahles.

The SPD wants "more of a commitment, first and foremost concerning minimum wages, but about other things as well," she added.

Tax policy has also been a point of contention between the two parties, with the SPD calling for an increase on high-income earners in order to fund improvements to infrastructure and education. The CDU/CSU have repeatedly rejected any tax increase.

Many other things still have to be "contributed before we reach a sound basis for a coalition."

The CDU/CSU is expected to form a government either with the SPD, which won 25.7 percent of the vote in September, or the Greens, which won 8.4 percent. However, members of the SPD have reiterated concerns over entering into another grand coalition with Merkel because of the party's experiences in the grand coalition between 2005 and 2009. The partnership is believed to have resulted in the SPD's worst-ever election results in the election that followed.

The Greens and the CDU/CSU are also due to hold a second round of exploratory talks on Tuesday.

kms/tj (AFP, Reuters, dpa)